In the Twinkle of a Fly

Rudolf A. Raff reviews Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development by Nobel-laureate Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, in American Scientist:

Fullimage_200653113635_866Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is one of the pioneers in the groundbreaking discoveries that revealed how genes regulate the development of animal embryos. For this effort she shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Eric F. Wieschaus and Edward B. Lewis. In Coming to Life, she provides an engaging and clear summary of what developmental biologists now understand about how embryos work.

The existence of such an apparently simple guide shows how much we have come to take for granted the explanation of development by gene regulation. However, it should be understood that what Nüsslein-Volhard describes actually represents the outcome of one of the premier intellectual triumphs of human thought—one that has been achieved within only the past two and a half decades.

Consider the profound difficulty embryonic development presents to an observer. A complex organism, such as a chick, frog, insect or human, arises in an orderly and magical way from an apparently structureless egg.

More here.